Tag Archives: St. Augustine

Late have I loved you

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“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace”.

St. Augustine of Hippo
Confession of St. Augustine

St. Augustine was Bishop of Hippo. He is considered one of the greatest theologians of the Catholic Church as well as one of the greatest convert to Christianity. He wrote more than 5 million words and his writings influenced the development of western though through out the middle ages. Through out his life he relentlessly fought for the orthodoxy of Christian doctrine and repudiated some of the major heretical movement of his time such as Arianism and Donatism. He strongly advocated for the inclusion of the Letter to the Hebrews and the Book of Revelations into the cannon of scriptures and was greatly admired by many of the protestant reformers.

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Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work,
too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.

Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.

Amen.

St. Augustine of Hippo

A fine-tuned Universe: The extreme improbability of an anthropic universe.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”.

Psalm 19:1

The discovery of the Big Bang to be the beginning of our universe not only provides evidence to a point of creation, but also to the extreme improbability of an anthropic universe. That is a universe capable of sustaining life arising out of mere chance. The argument is based on at least two empirical findings: the probability of having a low entropy universe and the values of universal constants. Fairly recently physicists have empirically determined the value of a set of universal constants which govern all interactions in our universe. The range of the value of these universal constants that disallow for an anthropic universe is basically infinite, whereas the values that allow for an anthropic universe is very limited. This points to a fine-tuned universe that emerged out of the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago. These findings lead to the question how our universe was fine-tuned?

Low Entropy Universe

penrose

Entropy is the measurement of disorder of a system. The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system increases or remains constant. It is highly improbable for a system to spontaneously organize itself, just like a teenagers room it naturally tends towards disorganization. Our universe is fairly ordered with low entropy. Sir Roger Penrose, English physicist, estimated that the probability of a low entropy universe arising out of the Big Bang by chance is:

 1 in 10^10123

 That is 10 billion to the power of 123! This is an incredibly infinitesimally small probability that our universe emerged by chance with low entropy. Many apologists make the famous junkyard analogy that it is more reasonable to believe that a tornado assembled a 757 from a plane junkyard than to believe that a low entropy universe emerged out of chance.

Universal constants

Universal constants are fixed values that govern the law of physics in our universe. They are empirically determined. If any of their value were slightly different our universe would be a very different universe. The following are just three examples of universal constants that illustrate this point: 

1. The gravitational force constant (G= 6.67 x 10^-11)

If G the gravitational constant would differ from its actual value, (by even one part in 1050), the precise balance against A bare would be upset, and the structure of the universe would be drastically altered.

Davies 1982, as quoted from New Proof for the existence of God.

That is

1/100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

If G were greater than just 1/1050 of its value, then the universe would collapse into a single black hole.

If G were less than just 1/1050 of its value, then the universe would have expanded without the possibility of forming galaxies, solar systems or planets.

2. Strong Force Constant   gs = 15 (SI units)

The strong force is one of the four fundamental forces, it basically holds an atom together.

A 2% reduction from its current value will make the formation of elements heavier than Hydrogen impossible, i.e. no carbon.

That is if gs < 14.7 there would be no element heavier than hydrogen.

A 2% increase from its current value Hydrogen will be never be able to exist, making it impossible for water to exist and stars will have no long term fuel.

That is if the gs > 15.3 only elements heavier than Hydrogen could form.

Both of these deviations would have precluded life in our universe. Moreover, it’s far more likely to have values outside the range between 14.7 and 15.3 than fall between these values.

3. Weak Force Coupling Constant gw = 1.43 x 10-62 (SI units)

The weak force is responsible for both the radioactive decay and nuclear fusion of subatomic particle. If it deviates from its current value Carbon would not have been able to form bonds with each other making it impossible for the basic building block for life to occur.

Alternative explanations

The range of values that disallow an anthropic universe is far greater than the very narrow range of values that allows it. This strongly argues for a creator that fine-tuned our universe in order to allow life to develop. In order to avoid such conclusion, it is necessary to present alternative explanations/theories that invoke a practically infinite number of universes popping into existence. If the number of trials has now been infinite, then it is just a matter of time before one universe emerges with the right set of conditions that allows for life, independently how infinitesimally small those chances are.

As Fr. Spitzer points in his book “New Proof for the Existence of God”, the problem with these theories is threefold. First, they remain in the theoretical sphere of physics. At best they do not have any empirical data to support them or the ability to obtain empirical data in the near future is highly unlikely and at worst some are incongruent with the observable cosmology of our universe (Linde Chaotic Inflationary multiverse and the string theory landscape). Second, they violate the principle of parsimony that is they invoke borderline ridiculous number of universes in order to explain ours. Third, they failed to avoid the issue of fine-tuning (multiverse resembling those proposed by Linde and Susskind).

hoyle

Fred Hoyle, which moved out of atheism observed:

“… A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Hoyle 1981, as quoted from New Proof for the existence of God.

Concluding thoughts

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Remains an inescapable question that any serious thinker should not avoid. For Christian and Jews the answer resides in the great I AM from the Exodus 3:14…however, it is understandable for many other people to inquire and explore such an exhilarating mystery that is to be alive. The point of these series of posts was to provide evidence that it is more reasonable to believe that there is a Creator rather than to think that the universe and life are the result of a great cosmic dance of chance. That reason can point towards a creator and thereby that Christian faith is reasonable. I hope that my amateurish efforts sparked your curiosity to explore this subject in far greater depth that my poor abilities allowed me to do on this page.

I cannot help but to quote St. Augustine, the great Catholic theologian of the fourth century and father of the Church, when looking at creation asked the question: who made you?

“And what is this? I asked the earth, and it answered me, “I am not He;” and whatsoever are in it confessed the same. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the living creeping things, and they answered, “We are not Thy God, seek above us.” I asked the moving air; and the whole air with his inhabitants answered, “Anaximenes was deceived, I am not God.” I asked the heavens, sun, moon, stars, “Nor (say they) are we the God whom thou seek.” And I replied unto all the things, which encompass the door of my flesh: “Ye have told me of my God, that ye are not He; tell me something of Him.” And they cried out with a loud voice, “He made us.”

St. Augustine of Hippo
Confessions Book X

He made us.

God Bless!

 Note: I owed the inspiration for this post to Fr. Benedict Groechel talk, God the Father, which until recently could be found at EWTN for free download. The scientific and philosophical arguments were mostly taken from Fr. Robert Spitzer book: New Proof for the Existence of God.

A brief thought about happiness

This week I have come across this beautiful prayer from St. Nicholas of Flue:

“My Lord and My God, take from me everything that distance me from you. My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you. My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you”.

St. Nicholas of Flue

It helped me to put things into perspective. What is it that we really want and why is it that even if we feel content by our material possessions, achievement our hearts remain restless?

I believe that deep inside any sane person wants happiness. Many people have different definitions of what happiness is and many different ways to find it. The problem is that we often confuse what happiness is and look for it in all the wrong places. I rather have a very simple definition of what happiness is. Happiness is a state of fulfillment. The question is what is fulfillment? I think that St. Augustine of Hippo, in the fourth century, had the answer when he wrote in the Confessions:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”.

We are truly happy when all our desires and actions rest upon the Lord. Think about it… as Fr. Vincent Serpa, chaplain of the Catholic Answers apostolate, says: “He loves you with such a love that keeps your heart beating and with such a love that cause his heart to stop”. He loves you with such a Love that he only wants what is best for you. Period.

So when I found St. Nicholas of Flue prayer it all made sense. Why want anything that will keep me away from such Love? Why not seek anything that will bring me closer to such Love? Why not give myself completely to His love? Even if we keep falling and hitting our heads against the wall every time we sin, it is totally worth it!

God Bless.